Review: 'VAJUNGLE' at Towson University, Center for the Arts.
“I will survive.”
Vajungle, written by Mani Yangilmau, a student written, directed, and acted piece at Towson University, is a feministic piece that is able to vividly express what a young woman goes through in various stages of her life. From sex, to breakups, body image, lust, and regrets, the mental heaviness brilliantly leads to tears, anguish, but also resilience in the eyes of the audience. Centering on the fact that women are verbally and mentally abused by lovers, friends, and worst of all themselves, Vajungle is a story of surviving the simplest and most complex terrors of being a woman.
The play begins with 5 women, each representing a version of a scared soul, and each completely nameless. With an eerie a capella song to present a warning, they each awake in a different state of mind. One is experiencing the best day; the other cannot escape her dreams and wakes up gasping. From then on, each actress transforms their bodies as set pieces, various voices, and stoic picturesque snapshots of various stages of love and abuse.
The direction by Tiana Bias is stunning. She is able to take actor driven dialogues and moments, and create sensory, all body scenes that add an extra edge for the play. In a standout moment, her direction captured a nighttime mental running we have experienced when trying to feel. One woman feels trapped, as the others circle around her in a perfectly planned chaotic juxtaposition, not allowing her to feel anything besides pain and enclosure. This takes the audiences breath away, and sweeps them into a mental trance as they each see themselves as that woman. Her direction also focuses on fluidity to represent mental states of happiness, confusion, and sadness.
In normal reviews I would give a breakdown of actors and actresses and their performances, but in this case I believe it would take away from what the playwright intended. Each performance is unique, but each character is also anonymous. And, each of the women all give breakout moments, and triumph at their ability to be daring, brave, and unforgiving in owning who they are, but also who they are portraying. From screaming about a breakup, to standing virtually naked in a mirror and hating a specific area of themselves, to the brutality and verbal anguish they all experience; the cast is a whole, not just single performances, and each of them enhance all of the performances. There were no hints of stardom, only of bettering the piece. And, for student actors, their ability of appreciation for the work is inspiring.
This play is a great example of great vivid theatre. It’s non-conventional, unique, heart wrenching, but mostly thought provoking. Mani Yangilmau’s writing is something to experience as she has the ability to leave audiences feeling uneasy, but also with a realization that they are not alone. It is proof of the fact that women go through things together, in varying degrees. Sexual and mental abuse are traumatic, but so is hating your body, being in unhealthy relationships, wanting sex but feeling unable to express it because of slut-shaming, but worse, hating yourself for the fact that we are simply humans, all surviving and all living.
I urge everyone to please see this show and support a student driven production that is above and beyond what you’d expect. You’ll leave feeling enlightened, and hopefully, strengthened.
Tickets are $5, and can be purchased online at events.towson.edu, or at the door. Vaungle runs through October 3. All proceeds go to the TU Foundation.